How to Handle A New Business Inquiry

Inbound Marketing 101: The 13 Questions

The hot biz dev phrase du jour is Inbound Marketing. Agencies are taking great pains to leverage Social Media and converting the prospect leads into inquiries. Sounds good — until it actually works, and you get a new business inquiry. What’s often missing in the Inbound Marketing game is the marketing part. A lot of agencies talk the new biz talk — but their cultures are more of an operational culture than a marketing culture. Except for one or two folks whose livelihoods are dependent on new business — who are accountable for new business results. Most other employees at a creative agency are service and operationally driven. They are mostly billable employees, or part of an administrative team.

There are two types of people and mentalities in the world: Marketing people and Operational people. And I’ve noticed more than occasional friction between the two forces within creative agencies (and  most companies, in general). Too often, the two archetypes are sitting in the wrong seats on the agency bus. Every point of contact in the new business chain is vital — and often in reverse order of management hierarchy. When it comes to Inbound Marketing, your switchboard operator is more important than your New Biz Director. At least, on the initial call. I’ve masqueraded as an inquisitive prospect with some of my client agencies and sometimes I’m baffled that they’re not better prepared to expedite the inquiry. I empathize with the intern that is juggling 8 vendor calls and lumps the prospect inquiry in with that lot.

“Hello, I’m with the marketing department of the Global Acme Corporation and we’re interested in working with your agency. Who can I speak to about our upcoming assignment?”

“Uhhh, I’m not sure, lemme check.”  HOLD MUSIC. “That would be Joe Blow, but he’s out of the office on vacation. Can I put you in his voicemail?”


“Thank kewww.” (by the way, what’s with this baby talk “thank you” that is so popular in today’s young female vernacular?)

Let’s assume the Inbound Marketing call gets to your biz dev person. What do they do with it? Are they so excited to be getting a call or an RFP that they fumble the kick? Do they talk too much? Not enough? Are they asking the right questions? Here are the golden 13 questions of handling a new business inquiry:

 Handling a New Business Inquiry (first call):

  1. How do you know about us?
  2. What are you looking for in a new agency relationship?
  3. What services does your current agency provide?
  4. What communications are most important for you to to develop?
  5. (If not requested) Are you also looking for a Media/PR/Direct/Interactive partner?
  6. (If services have been unbundled) Have you considered one agency to integrate all disciplines?
  7. What is your agency fee range? What is the expected agency revenue opportunity?
  8. Does that include production?
  9. What is your timeline?
  10. What is your selection process?
  11. Who else is part of the selection process
  12. How can we learn more about you, your customer and your goals?
  13. (IF YOU’RE TALKING TO A MARKETING COORDINATOR OR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT) “Can we set up a 20 minute phone call with the person driving the review”? (Be sure to get his or her NAME!)
And then what? Sit and wait for another call? NO… follow up on that inquiry.

 Following up on the Inquiry (second call):

  • Can we possibly gain access to your consumer research?
  • Can we possibly see a copy of your marketing plan?
  • (If they don’t have one) What are your goals/What do you want your marketing to accomplish?
  • (If it’s a strong prospect) Is it possible to set up a “discovery meeting” – where we can learn more about you prior to a review?

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